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Kent prepares for semi-final World Cup as England play Croatia

By Jenna Dobbs

Anticipation is reaching fever pitch across Kent as the countdown begins ahead of tonight's crucial World Cup semi-final against Croatia.

Pubs will be packed and roads deserted as the nation gathers around big screens at 7pm to see if England can reach their first major final since 1966.

Shops and supermarkets have reported bumper sales of England memorabilia such as flag bunting, novelty hats, foam fingers, bandanas, whistles and face paint as fans get into the spirit.

World Cup celebrations at Ditton Community Centre. Logan Cribben, 4, with the World Cup. Picture: Sean Aidan
World Cup celebrations at Ditton Community Centre. Logan Cribben, 4, with the World Cup. Picture: Sean Aidan

Beer has also been flying off the shelves, with Asda expecting to sell more than three million litres by the end of the tournament - enough to fill the Olympic Pool from London 2012.

It has also seen increased demand for home deliveries and has renamed 11 delivery vans in honour of Gareth Southgate's history-making team, including goalkeeper Jord-van Pickford and midfielder Home Dele-very Alli.

During England's quarter final against Sweden there was a 20% increase in transactions in pubs using Wordpay across the South East compared to the average Saturday, with Kent accounting for 6,488 sales made within the 90-minute game.

Fans tend to drink the most in the hour before kick-off, according to figures from ResponseSource, which could be down to nerves or sheer excitement.

Divided loyalties over the World Cup, Mike Abbott and his Swedish partner Anna Svensson at the Yew Tree pub, Westbere. Picture: Chris Davey
Divided loyalties over the World Cup, Mike Abbott and his Swedish partner Anna Svensson at the Yew Tree pub, Westbere. Picture: Chris Davey

AA Roadwatch has predicted the roads will be quieter than Christmas Day, predicting millions will be driving home early to make sure they don't miss a minute's action.

Edmund King, AA president, said: "We are likely to see an earlier than normal rush hour from work, as despite a 7pm kick-off, many venues screening the match get filled up hours before the game.

"This is our first World Cup semi-final since 1990, expectations are high, so most people won’t want to be stuck in a jam or on train when Gareth’s team kick-off."

Southeastern is also anticipating commuters will be heading home early to watch the game, while others stay in London, meaning trains may be slightly less busy at the usual peak times.

Football fans watching the second England World Cup match at The Local, Chartham. Picture: Chris Davey
Football fans watching the second England World Cup match at The Local, Chartham. Picture: Chris Davey

Arriva buses will also be sticking to their normal timetables, with drivers ready to cheer on the Three Lions as they go.

Oliver Monahan, area managing director for Kent and Surrey said: "Some of our drivers will be wearing their England shirts to raise money for local charities and we’ll also be proudly changing the destination blinds of some of our buses to "It's Coming Home" to cheer on the England team.

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"We hope all our customers thoroughly enjoy the game and get home safely with Arriva – Come on England."

Officials are urging fans to enjoy the game responsibly later today. Picture: Chris Davey
Officials are urging fans to enjoy the game responsibly later today. Picture: Chris Davey

Meanwhile, emergency services are bracing themselves for hundreds of extra calls as spectators take to the streets after the game.

South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) experienced one of it's busiest weekends since New Year's Eve after England went head-to-head with Sweden last Saturday.

The trust handled more than 3,400 calls as high temperatures coupled with the quarter-final victory.

Extra police will also be patrolling the streets of Kent to ensure fans stay safe during and after the game.

Watching the match? (silly question...) Send your photos or videos of the highs and (hopefully not) lows to us at news@thekmgroup.co.uk or tweet us on @Kent_Online

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